Glossary

amygdala: part of the limbic system in the brain, which is involved with emotions and emotional responses and is particularly active during puberty

dopamine: a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a role in pleasure and the reward system; increases in the limbic system and later in the prefrontal cortex during adolescence

frontal lobes: the parts of the brain involved in impulse control, planning, and higher-order thinking; still developing in adolescence

limbic system: structures in the brain (including the amygdala) that involve processing emotional experience and social information and determining rewards and punishments; develops years before the prefrontal cortex

melatonin: sleep hormone whose levels rise later at night and decrease later in the morning for teens, compared to children and adults

myelination: insulation of neurons’ axons with a fatty substance (myelin sheath) that helps speed up the processing of information; myelination starts to increase in the prefrontal cortex during adolescence

prefrontal cortex: part of the frontal lobes, involved with decision making, cognitive control, and other higher-order functions; prefrontal cortex develops further during adolescence

serotonin: “calming chemical,” a neurotransmitter in the brain involved with the regulation of mood and behavior; serotonin levels increase in the limbic system during adolescence

synaptic pruning: connections in the brain that are not used much are lost so that other connections can be strengthened; this pruning happens with prefrontal cortex connections in adolescence

major depression: feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, and worthlessness that last two weeks or more

suicide: the act of intentionally causing one’s own death

suicidal ideation: thinking about suicide, usually with some serious emotional and intellectual or cognitive overtones

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